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Elections in Afghanistan (Dispatch 5)

Afghanistan's high-stakes political drama is edging the country toward crisis.
June 30, 2014, 6:20pm

In the space of a few short days, Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah went from confident frontrunner to aggrieved underdog as his rival, Ashraf Ghani, took a surprise lead. Abdullah promptly announced that he rejected the preliminary election results and demanded the resignation of the head of the election commission, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, amid accusations of ballot tampering.

Peaceful street protests in support of Abdullah sprung up across central Kabul, echoing the protests of the Arab Spring. When Amarkhail resigned after Abdullah's team released audio tapes of him allegedly discussing large-scale electoral fraud, Abdullah's campaign seemed revitalized, culminating in a large Friday demonstration in the center of Kabul during which Abdullah personally addressed his supporters. While the peaceful nature of the demonstrations illustrate how far Afghanistan has come since 2001, the political deadlock is now edging the country toward crisis, with no sense of how or when the high-stakes political drama will end.

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